Sleep would have to be the most talked about topic amongst new mums. Who’s getting some, who’s not. And let’s be honest, if you’re not getting much sleep, it NEVER helps to hear other mums talk about their baby sleeping through from the early days!
So I thought it would be great to have a chat with a sleep expert to help demystify some aspects of babies sleep and to get some good tips for mums to be or new mums to keep in mind as they start their parenting journey.
We are lucky enough to hear from Nicole from Tiny Sleepers. Nicole is very qualified as a nurse, certified baby sleep consultant and also a mum.
Jacqui: Hi Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with the Rudie Nudie Village. Obviously it's a hot topic with mums because when a baby sleeps, mum gets some down time [and hopefully sleep!], and we all know that sleep deprivation can make everything feel hard. I also feel that we spend so much time talking about preparing for the birth that we're never quite prepared for other areas like sleep.
Nicole: Thanks so much for having me Rudie Nudie! Congratulations to all you beautiful mumma’s! Before we dive in, my number one message I always leave with my clients is: Please be kind to yourself!
Jacqui: Perhaps if we could start with the newborn phase in the first four weeks. What would you recommend for new mums to start doing to encourage babies into some regular sleep patterns and what should mums expect in those early weeks?
Nicole: In these early weeks it is all about creating healthy sleep habits! What are healthy sleep habits I hear you ask? This includes things such as:
It is so very normal for your baby to want to sleep on you, to want to be fed to sleep and rocked to sleep. These are all very normal newborn behaviours!
Jacqui: Are you a believer of strict routines or a more gentle structure?
Nicole: I love this question! I find the more pressure new mums put on themselves trying to implement a strict routine at such a young age, the more likely they are setting themselves up for failure and a whole lot of stress! Enjoy your newborn and all their beautiful snuggly cuddles!
Realistic expectations are so important! If you’re able to stick to your babies awake times throughout the day, and have a similar wind down/bedtime routine during those first 6-8 weeks, then that is amazing!!
Then after that you may like to start thinking about starting your little one’s day at the same time each day, and end it at the same time each day, this will assist in ‘setting’ their circadian rhythm.
From 12weeks onwards is a great time to start implementing a little more structure.
Jacqui: If babies are doing a sleep, feed, play type routine, what are the recommended awake times for the first few months?
Nicole: 0-4 weeks awake time of 45mins-1hr
4-8 weeks awake time begins to stretch out to around 1hr15mins
8-12 weeks awake time begins to stretch out to around 1hr25mins
Your little one may have 4-5+ naps throughout the day. And as you can see, your little one’s sleep requirements change quite quickly throughout the newborn period.
Jacqui: Why is it that some babies sleep through during the early days, yet some don't for years, and do you believe that every baby is capable of sleeping through early on, or are they all programmed differently?
Nicole: Babies will all do their own thing, and “sleep through” in their own time. Did you know the definition of sleeping through is actually only a 5-6hr block at a time during the first few months. But we can absolutely assist our little one’s in sleeping longer by having those healthy sleep habits in place.
Remember mumma’s, try not to compare your baby to another baby!
Jacqui: You see a lot of babies who are cat nappers during the day. Are there ways to help stretch out these naps and is it important that they get longer bursts of sleep or is it fine to just work around them?
Nicole: Some babies will remain catnappers! If this is not affecting your babies night time sleep then this is okay. But in saying that, it is really great to teach our little one’s to nap longer as this in when all that restorative sleep will occur. How do we do that? It is all about resettling, resettling and some more resettling!
Keep in mind, that self-settling and resettling are two separate skills!
Jacqui: We all set out with the best intentions - ie. not feeding or rocking babies to sleep, but when it comes down to getting some sleep or not, it's so easy to let these habits take over. Is it really that a big problem to feed or rock a baby to sleep [by the way, I am guilty of both!]?
Nicole: And why wouldn’t we feed to sleep or rock to sleep when this is what our babies have ever known?
They have just spent the last 9months being fed on demand and rocked and jiggled around all day!
The ‘problem’ isn’t so much when our little one’s are newborns, but these habits can become problematic once your baby begins to get a little older, as they begin to rely on these associations to assist them off to sleep and to help them get back to sleep.
But if rocking to sleep or feeding to sleep is not an issue for you and your family, and you’re all getting the sleep that you require, then why change anything?
If feeding/rocking to sleep has become problematic, and you are exhausted from the lack of sleep, then yes we can definitely implement some methods to help break these associations.
Jacqui: At what stage would you recommend that people ask for help from a sleep consultant and what are the common stages that mums come to you for help?
Nicole: Why not get some information in the bank while you’re still pregnant? Learn the basics of sleep requirements before your little one has even arrived?
Most families will contact me once they are absolutely exhausted and have nothing left to give. Families will often find it hard to reach out and ask for help when it comes to struggling with sleep. Cue mum guilt here!
I would really recommend reaching out for help before you are at breaking point, know what you are going through is so completely normal, and it is okay to ask for help!
Jacqui: What are some encouraging words you would have for a mum with a five month old baby who is getting very broken and interrupted sleep and is starting to believe that sleep is a thing of the past?
Nicole: You are not alone!! Know we are here to support you through this difficult phase, and that is exactly what it is, a ‘phase’.
You do not in anyway have to leave your 5month old to cry in order to help them learn to sleep longer. At 5months of age, it is very normal for your little one to require hands on assistance to help them off to sleep. And it is also a perfect age to start implementing more structure into your day to help assist with and encourage positive sleep habits.
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one”
Jacqui: Thanks enormously Nicole for your tips - I really hope it can help a few mums out there who are finding sleep to be challenging, and to give them a few little tips to try.
Nicole is based in Bendigo and offers face to face consults in both Bendigo and Melbourne, but also offers Skype sessions if that is more convenient.
Nicole: Thank you Rudie Nudie for having me on your blog! Please jump across and follow me on facebook at Tiny Sleepers Australia or on Instagram @tinysleepersau. If you would like to organise a free 15minute phone consultation, please email me at email@example.com to secure your spot.